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Strengths and Weaknesses of Japanese Family Model, Ie

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    The knowledge on the society’s family system is usually essential in order to understand how the society functions. In most societies the family is considered to the building block of the society. The family represents the most essential social group that provide for the continuity of the individuals.  In the as of Japan, understanding the family structure is important because the family rather than the individual is considered as the most basic unit that forms the society and around which individual and family responsibilities are organized.  Familial relations in Japan provide a working model for social integration in the society.   A stable family relationship has been considered as the foundation of the economic miracle in Japan.  Division of labor based on gender and labor has provided a labor pool which has enabled the country economy to absorb more than a third of labor force. (Joy, 1996)

    Japan family system is in transition. Since the end of the World War II, Japanese families have been changing considerably in many ways and since the 1947 when there was revision of Japanese family law with movement to a more Americanized nuclear family.  Little achievement was a made by 1980 when about 63% of the families followed a nuclear structure. However Confucian, which is the earlier system underlying the ie concept has not completely faded and it is followed by several Japanese today. The Confucian system has several advantages and disadvantages as we shall review below

    The Confucian family system in Japan

    Under the Japanese family system, the ie which is the “household” is the basic unit under the Japanese Law. This system was widely used up to the end of the Second World War.  Under this family system, the civil end criminal issues were taken as family matter rather than individual responsibilities. The ie system consisted of grandparents, sons and their wives and their children. However in some cases, the nuclear family was existence in some Japanese family even by 1920s. (Bong, 2004)

    The ie family was basically agricultural household. It had stricter gender based roles which held a patriarchal head with a hierarchy by birth.  It included all the residential family style relations and therefore sometimes it was beyond the blood relations. The elder child remained to over the family from parent including family business and other rights. Women had limited degree of participation in the family issues including family business. The principle of this tradition Japanese family has been very influential even in the modern Japan. This has been evidenced through the division of roles, company management, and in other aspects of life.

    Advantages and disadvantages of Japanese ie family

    The changes taking place in Japanese society has clearly illustrated the effects on the family system.  Many have lamented the decision by the state to break away the traditional family organization in Japan owing to the rising issue. As the country enters the 21st century, it has seen many women postponing their marriages, the birth rate declining, the rate of divorce rising, teenage girls dating middle aged men for money to acquire luxuries, rapid growing elderly population, and others. What were the advantage of the ie system and why is the state thinking of reinstating it?

    The tradition Japanese system had a lot of advantages compared to the Americanized family system.  There as a very strong sense of spiritual bonding between the members of the family which provided strong family ties? This meant the family members cooperated with one another in confronting many issues facing them.  This also raised a sense of protection for all the family members. For example the aged were assured of care in their later life unlike in the present situation where the government is struggling with coming up with ways of taking care of the aging population. There was recognition of the family order and hierarchy which ensured that the young obeyed and respected their elders. Oyabun-Kobun relations which emphasized principles of protection-obedience relations were used as an effective way of social adaptability. (Bong, 2004)

    The ie system also established an orderly society where everyone recognized what they were supposed to do. The level of crime was very low since the family values were highly respected. Since crimes were taken as family issues, family members upheld the respect of their family values. One feature of the family was dividing of role according to gender and age. This ensures that there was effective sharing of work for all individual in the family.  Since Japanese families have tradition of business activities, there was effective participation of all family members who took up different roles in the family. This also ensured that there was labor stability in the society. (Joy, 1996)

    However there were weaknesses which could be attributed to the system as well. With a strong emphasis on the group rather than the individual, it meant that individuals were not granted freedom to act as they wished. Group or family needs were put together before individual needs. Individual were compelled to comply with the demands of the family even they were oppressive.  In many cases individual could strain beyond their capability in order to provide for the group or to comply with group needs. This system was also exploitative in the sense that individual could be forced to provide labor for the groups which was not adequately compensated.  In case the group failed like in a business, all members failed with the group. (Bong, 2004)


    The Japanese family system has been considered as one of the oldest and highly organized family systems in the world. It provided for the organization of the family around the extended family which went beyond blood relations. However the family system provided a lot of security and togetherness for all family members. High division of labor ensured that there was adequate participation by all family members.  The family system has a weakness in that it ignored individual freedom and the labor patterns were exploitative. Failure of the group could also be considered as a failure of the individual person.


    Bong, H. (2004): The Ironies of Confucianism. Journal of Democracy, Vol. 15(3): 93-107

    Joy, H. (1996): Understanding Japanese society. New York: Routledge

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    What are issues affecting Japanese families today and how are women's issues related?
    Family-related issues are at the forefront of social challenges facing Japan: women are postponing marriage, the birth rate is falling, the divorce rate rising, teenage girls are dating middle-aged men to earn money to buy luxury goods, young men are finding it difficult to attract wives, and the percentage of the ...
    What is the IE in the Japanese family system?
    The ie is a patriarchal household and is considered to consist of grandparents, their son, his wife and their children. In a “traditional” Japanese household, the eldest son inherits the household property as well as the responsibility of taking care of his parents as they age.
    When was the IE system abolished?
    In terms of family law, the “ie family regime,” which is the most rigid type of stem family in regard to the rule of sole inheritance prescribed by the Meiji Civil Code (1898 Law No. 9), was abolished by the Civil Code Reform (1947 Law No. 222) after World War II.
    Why are Japanese families small?
    The condom remains Japan's most popular form of birth control; 81.5% of women cited it as their major method. The rising cost of education, followed by poor housing and stagnant income were the reasons given for the small family size desired.

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